Ukraine targets a key Crimean city a day after striking Russia’s Black Sea Fleet headquarters

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine on Saturday morning launched another missile attack on Sevastopol on the occupied Crimean Peninsula, a Russian-installed official said, a day after an attack on the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet that left a serviceman missing and the main building smoldering.

Sevastopol was put under an air raid alert for about an hour after debris from intercepted missiles fell near a pier, Gov. Mikhail Razvozhayev wrote on the messaging app Telegram. He later added that another missile fragment fell in a park in northern Sevastopol, parts of which had to be cordoned off. Ferry traffic in the area was also halted and later resumed.

Loud blasts were also heard near Vilne in northern Crimea, followed by rising clouds of smoke, according to a pro-Ukraine Telegram news channel that reports on developments on the peninsula. Crimea, illegally annexed by Russia in 2014, has been a frequent target for Ukrainian forces since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Ukraine’s intelligence chief, Kyrylo Budanov, told Voice of America on Saturday that at least nine people were killed and 16 others wounded as a result of Kyiv’s attack on the Black Sea Fleet on Friday. He claimed that Alexander Romanchuk, a Russian general commanding forces along the key southeastern front line, was “in a very serious condition” following the attack.

Budanov’s claim couldn’t be independently verified, and he didn’t comment on whether Western-made missiles were used in Friday’s attack. The Russian Defense Ministry initially said that the strike killed one service member at the Black Sea Fleet headquarters, but later issued a statement that he was missing.

Ukraine’s military also offered more details about Friday’s attack. It said the air force conducted 12 strikes on the Black Sea Fleet headquarters, targeting areas where personnel, military equipment and weapons were concentrated. It said that two anti-aircraft missile systems and four Russian artillery units were hit.

Crimea has served as the key hub supporting Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Sevastopol, the main base of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet since the 19th century, has had a particular importance for navy operations since the start of the war.

Ukraine has increasingly targeted naval facilities in Crimea in recent weeks while the brunt of its summer counteroffensive makes slow gains in the east and south of Ukraine, the Institute for the Study of War said. Military experts say it is essential for Ukraine to keep up its attacks on targets in Crimea to degrade Russian morale and weaken its military.

In other developments, President Joe Biden told his Ukrainian counterpart at their White House meeting Thursday that the U.S. would give Ukraine a version of the longer-range ATACMS ballistic missiles, without specifying how many or when they would be delivered, according to two U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the matter before an official announcement.

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and other Ukrainian leaders have long pushed the U.S. and other Western allies to provide longer-distance weapons that would enable Kyiv to ramp up its strikes behind Russian lines while themselves staying out of firing range.

The U.S. has balked so far, worried that Kyiv could use the weapons to hit deep into Russian territory and escalate the conflict. The Army Tactical Missile System, known as ATACMS, could give Ukraine the ability to strike Russian targets from as far away as about 180 miles, but the U.S. also has other variants of the missile that have a shorter range.

Elsewhere, Ukraine’s military said Saturday that Russia launched 15 Iranian-made Shahed drones at the front-line Zaporizhzhia region in the southeast, as well as Dnipropetrovsk province farther north. It claimed to have destroyed 14 of the drones.

Separately, Zaporizhzhia regional Gov. Yuri Malashko said that Russia over the previous day carried out 86 strikes on 27 settlements in the province, many of them lying only a few miles from the fighting. Malashko said that an 82-year-old civilian was killed by artillery fire.

In the neighboring Kherson region, Gov. Oleksandr Prokudin said that a 65-year-old woman was killed on Saturday as a Russian shell struck her yard, while a 78-year-old man was hospitalized with life-threatening injuries after a Russian drone dropped explosives.

Prokudin said earlier in a separate statement that at least one person died and three other people were wounded over the previous day because of Russian shelling. Russia fired 25 shells targeting the city of Kherson, which lies along the Dneiper River that marks the contact line between the warring sides, Prokudin said.

Residential quarters were hit, including medical and education institutions, government-built stations that serve food and drinks, as well as critical infrastructure facilities and a penitentiary, he added.

In the eastern Donetsk region, where heavy fighting is ongoing on the outskirts of Bakhmut, Russian shelling killed one civilian and wounded another on Friday and overnight, local Gov. Ihor Moroz reported Saturday.